“Information literacy” has been the most common term used to describe how to educate students in technology, in digital technologies in particular. But more recently fluency may be replacing literacy as the best description of the goal achieved by education in technology.
The mission of the Carnegie Mellon Center for Computational Thinking is “to advance computing research and advocate for the widespread use of computational thinking to improve people’s lives.” Jeanette Wing, the center’s director, has a vision for the 21st century whereby computational thinking is as fundamental to education as reading, writing and arithmetic.
Wing describes computational thinking as a way of solving problems, designing systems and understanding human behavior using techniques from computer science such as algorithms, recursion, abstraction, decomposition, modularization, caching, redundancy, error correction, contracts interfaces, heuristic reasoning. While these techniques may seem too technical to be practical beyond computer programming, Wing includes everyday examples:
When your daughter goes to school in the morning, she puts in her backpack the things she needs for the day; that’s prefetching and caching. When your son loses his mittens, you suggest he retrace his steps; that’s back-tracking. At what point do you stop renting skis and buy yourself a pair?; that’s online algorithms. Which line do you stand in at the supermarket?; that’s performance modeling for multi-server systems. Why does your telephone still work during a power outage?; that’s independence of failure and redundancy in design.
(see: J.M. Wing Computational Thinking CACM, vol. 49, no.3 March 2006, pp. 33-35.)
There are two distinct projects that focus on fluency for the 21st century. Both projects use the circle as a graphic representation of the fluency they advocate for. Within their “fluency” circle is a center surrounded by 5 sub divisions representing different aspects of their fluency project.
21st Century Fluency Project
The 21st Century Fluency Project describes itself as a “collaborative initiative that was created to develop exceptional educational resources to assist in transforming learning to be relevant to life in the 21st century.”
Learning in broken down into the following elements:
- The Big Picture
- Essential Question
- The Scenario
- Exploring Assumptions
- Learner Resources
- The Learning Process
This project is copyrighted by the infoSavvy Group, a consulting firm that does presentations, facilitations and workshops. Andrew Churches, the creator of the Digital Bloom Taxonomy is listed as one of their presenters.
21st Century Information Fluency
The mission of the 21st Century Information Fluency Project (21CIF) is to “help educators and students improve their ability to locate, evaluate and use digital information more effectively, efficiently and ethically.”
This fluency project focuses specifically on “digital information fluency” (DIF) and focuses on how to effectively and efficient find information using digital search tools.
Started in 2001 at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy with funding from the US Department of Education, 21CIF became a business in 2009 generating income from online course fees, face to face workshop fees and product licensing.
Andrew Churches, a self-proclaimed information and communications technologies (ICT) enthusiast, has revised Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives to include digital activities.
Churches has essentially taken the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy by Lorin Anderson, a former student of Bloom and added verbs for common digital activities such as blogging, wiki-ing, networking… etc.
“Information literacy” has been the most common term used to describe how to educate students in technology, in digital technologies in particular. But more recently fluency may be replacing literacy as the best description of the goal achieved by education in technology. The 21st Century Fluency Project make the following distinction:
To be literate means to have knowledge or competence. To be fluent is something a little more, it is to demonstrate mastery and to do so unconsciously and smoothly.
Being Fluent with Information Technology (1999), an report authored by the National Research Council Committee on Information Technology Literacy describes fluency with information technology as:
a deeper, more essential understanding and mastery of information technology for information processing, communication, and problem solving than does computer literacy as traditionally defined.
Educause has compiled a list of Digital Fluencies that include articles on a variety of new literacies, but also articles suggesting more fundamental changes (see: Understanding Students Who Were ‘Born Digital’, Revolutionizing Learning in the Digital Age), changes that deserve a new vocabulary.